On The Record: David Cook As Sociopolitical Barometer. With An Awesome Comb-Over
I am going out on a limb here. I am going to predict that there is precisely a 50 percent chance that “American Idol” winner David Cook will be very successful. I am relatively sure about this. Sort of.
Of course, I am also going to predict that he will not amount to much of anything. I am also relatively sure about this, though only about as sure as I am that he might be very successful. Do you follow? Yeah, me neither.
This ambivalence has less to do with my feelings about Cook the person or Cook the performer as it does with my lack of feelings about either. This is probably because I have no idea what is going on in the majority of this country, though it could also be attributed to the fact that A) I am a music journalist living in New York, B) I never listen to rock radio, C) I am sort of an elitist jerk, or D) all of the above.
To put it in much clearer terms: I do not understand the phenomenon of David Cook because David Cook is pretty much everything I am not. He is a former frat guy turned bartender, the kind of guy who willingly chooses to perform songs by Switchfoot and Collective Soul and proudly proclaims his undying affection for Our Lady Peace. He sings in an earnest, gruff, decidedly weathered voice, not unlike the kind you hear all over rock radio or in a Chevy Truck commercial. If you squint funny, he looks a whole lot like Chris Daughtry, only with more hair. He has probably never cared what a blog has to say (if he’s ever read one), and he likely still has an AOL e-mail address. He is a Kansas City Royals fan.
He is a Rock-and-Roll Red State. He is Rolling Thunder across the Fruited Plains. He is SUVs and flag-waving and the American Dream. He is basically the living, breathing embodiment of the overwhelming majority of people in this country, whom I do not, cannot and — let’s face it — will not understand. Not ever. He makes me realize just how detached I am with reality and how unimportant I am. And that makes me sort of hate myself. And this country. Sort of.
Let me point out — if it weren’t already obvious — that when I talk about David Cook in the context of this column, I mean the concept of him, not the actual man. Cook seems nice enough. He has cool facial hair, and he did a killer job on Lionel Richie’s “Hello.” But it’s what he means as a whole — the ideals and social forces he represents — that frustrate and, well, sort of terrify me.
David Cook is the reason someone like Josiah Leming — a performer who was infinitely more talented in decidedly subtler, less-than-mainstream ways — will never win “American Idol.” People don’t like subtle or weird, they like familiar. David Cook is the reason Nickelback sell 7 million records here in the States. David Cook is the reason the meek are picked on and terrified. David Cook is the reason we are divided, obese and ignorant. David Cook is why the reason the rest of the world hates us.
And there are underlying consequences here that I don’t want to think about. Like, what does David Cook winning “American Idol” mean for Barack Obama’s chances in November? Or for ever withdrawing from Iraq? Or ending our dependency on foreign oil? I worry about these things because David Cook makes me worry.
I don’t think I’m the only one who feels this way. Then again, maybe I am. After all, last week Cook crushed presumed “Idol” favorite David Archuleta by more than 12 million votes to be named the champion of the show’s seventh season. That could just be due to the overwhelming number of cougars who turned out in support of him (never underestimate a horny recent divorcée with speed dial).
Maybe I should just chill out and realize that “American Idol” is nothing more than — as Leming himself put it — “glorified karaoke,” a puffed-up and inconsequential popularity contest that has no bearing on the world at large. Then again, maybe that’s what David Cook wants me to think …
Slightly Less Than A Half-Dozen Of My Favorite Things On The Internet This Week, So Named For A Post-Rock Group That No One Probably Remembers.
01. Islands’ Arm’s Way: These dudes look like a Benetton ad, started off playing jokey Casio pop (as the late, lamented Unicorns), moved on to sorta-calypso prog-pop (on 2006’s Return to the Sea) and now play overstuffed, genre-leaping everything rock. Oh, and they just released a creepy concept record about a mythical and magical appendage (which is worth purchase/download for the cover art alone). The two tracks here, “The Arm” and “Creeper,” are herky-jerky hodgepodges of styles and sounds (stabs of strings! synth blurbs! heroic guitars! galloping bass lines!), and both are sort of about death, which, coincidentally, is a pretty accurate way of describing roughly 80 percent of said concept record.
02. Empires’ Howl: When I was down in Chile with Fall Out Boy (during the great “Antarctica Debacle” ), I spent a lot of time hanging around in hotel rooms with Tom Conrad, who had been hired by FOB to photograph their momentous voyage. He’s also a former member of the Academy Is …, and he told me about Empires, a new band he was starting up “just to have fun and play music again.” He said they were close to finishing their debut album and that rather than shop around for a deal, they were gonna post the album as a free download because they just wanted people to hear it. Lucky for us, they’ve done just that: The album is great, all ethereal and doomy like the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club or the Black Angels, but with a little bit of My Chemical Romance snarl thrown in for good measure. I predict many goth/emo babies shall be conceived in its wake.
03. Esquire’s “75 Skills Every Man Should Master”: Not included: “76. Make it all the way through this nonsensical, pretentious list without chortling, bemoaning the state of your gender and/or hanging yourself using the bow tie (#16) or the square knot (#69) we’ve decreed it necessary for you to master.”
04. Pete Wentz 1, Paparazzi 0: Sometimes you realize that this is Pete Wentz’s world, and we’re all just living in it. This is one of those times.
05. Tricky’s “Council Estate” Video: Wow, remember Tricky?!? This song is awesome because it sounds like 1995 thrown into a blender (especially if that’s Martina Topley-Bird’s voice we keep hearing snippets of throughout). This video is awesome because it looks like Trick has spent the past 13 years morphing into a skinnier version of O.D.B. It’s from his upcoming Knowle West Boy, which his Web site describes as “the album that sums up everything that Tricky has accomplished since his 1995 Maxinquaye.” But don’t hold that against him.
Questions? Concerns? Cook? E-mail me at BTTS@MTVStaff.com.